Our after-school conversations with my youngest daughter go something like this: "What did you do at school today?"
"You sat in the corner all day and said nothing and did nothing?"
In contrast, the conversation with my oldest daughter generally goes something like this:
"How was school today?"
"OK. We did math and spelling. We're learning algebra in math. It's confusing. One of the boys got in trouble for talking during our reading time. I played soccer at recess and schooled the other team. We're reading this really interesting book for read aloud. Do you think we can get the rest of the books at the library? We had an assembly this afternoon."
As you can see, I have one child who tells me everything and another child who tells me virtually nothing. I'll be honest and tell you that it's much easier to figure out what's going on in my oldest daughter's world than it is to figure out what's happening in my youngest daughter's life.
When our kids talk to us -- and they know we are listening -- we open up lines of communication with our kids that will, hopefully, stand the test of time. If we are modeling our parenting on God's relationship with us, then communication is key. God hears us -- no matter where we are or what we are doing. The communication line to God is always open. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says "pray continually." God wants to hear from us all the time, and we want to have an open communication line with our kids that lets us hear from them all the time, as well.
I have no fear that my oldest daughter will tell me what's going on in her life. She even tells me when she does something wrong. It's my youngest daughter that poses the communication challenge. To keep the lines of communication open with her, we have to get creative. If you have a reluctant communicator in your home, try some simple tactics to get your child to open up about the events of the day and his feelings.
- Ask different questions. Instead of asking, "how was school?" ask, "What was the best thing that happened to you today?" or "What was the funniest thing that happened at school today?" Changing up the questions keeps your kids from giving you the same answers every time. It also makes them think about what really happened during their day.
- Use a question jar. Write down a bunch of questions on slips of paper. They can be silly questions like, "If you were a dog for a day, what would be your favorite thing to do?" or serious questions like "What one thing would you change about today?" Use your question jar after school, at dinner or even in the car. If you can get your kids talking to you about one subject, it will often lead to a discussion about other things.
- Ask your child to teach you something. If you know your son is learning how to do long division in school, ask him to teach it to you. If your daughter has just learned a new game, ask her to teach you how to play. When you let your kids teach you something they learned when they were not at home, it opens up opportunities to talk about what happened during their day while they were learning it.
Keeping the lines of communication open with our kids takes some effort on our part. It means we have to set aside a few minutes of our day to ask questions of our kids -- and really listen when they answer. If you have a reluctant communicator, it may seem like pulling teeth to get any information out of them, but getting your kids to talk to you about the things going on in their lives opens up opportunities to offer Godly wisdom and counsel. It's definitely worth the effort.